One benefit of the Intensive Sex Offender Program (ISOP) we all now participate in is the reality of our situations. All of us in the ISOP are here, incarcerated, for some type of sex crime. There is no denying that, though several claim their innocence or being framed. The nature of some of their crimes goes beyond my understanding, but they are real, and here we are, face to face with that fact daily. Everyday we are learning about our IO (instant offense, the crime that brought us here) and what caused us to do what we did and why, although this would have been better to learn prior to doing what we did so as to prevent it. Regardless, for those of us who want to learn and change, and yes, there are a few of us, it is helpful and interesting. Some are just going through the motions and will say or do whatever is required to get through this program and get out. Fortunately the counselors seem pretty adept at picking those characters out, though not always. From some of the conversations I hear back in the dorm I realize some put on a very good act. I do not want to do that, an actual repeat of the make believe world I lived in that caused all my problems on the outside.

Of course I have always been interesting in learning. That was one of the reasons I became a teacher, to help others learn and enjoy doing so. I worked at making high school English at least pleasant, as it was a required subject, so all had to partake to graduate. In fact, my final year teaching I had all seniors and was named faculty member of the year, quite an honor at the time. It was a testament to my involvement with making learning all phases of English, even Shakespeare, more enjoyable. It also spoke to how I was driven to be the best in everything I did, though I thought I did it on my own strength.

So learning inside corrections about ourselves and the nature of our IO actually is enjoyable for me. Some is a review of psychology courses I had taken in college or information I studied at other times. However, all is directed toward our crime and why we did what we did with the purpose of preventing any further evil-doing transgressions against others. In my case, it is easy to apply the information I learn to what was going on in my head at the time of my offense as well as after. I am so interested in all this that I have taken to reading extra articles and even books on sex addictions outside of program reading. As usual, I am a sponge for something like this that interests me.

However, the magnitude of what I had done to so many people was once more made evident, and with that, the shame and guilt returned. I often do not feel like eating, though I am not sure if it because of the food in here or my emotional state. I just feel like running away (can’t) or quitting the program (shouldn’t) as we are constantly bringing up hurtful issues. If I did quit, however, I would lose my ‘good time’, get no parole opportunities and have to stay here till I maxed out, which would be seven years. Not an option for me, as each day proves a challenge let alone more years.

This time there are no meds or Priest to help as I had in county jail and maximum security prison when I first arrived. I do have my weekly Bible study people, though trying to talk one on one with them is difficult. The pastor of Mid-State is nice enough, but I don’t know him that well and don’t know how I might connect for further talks.

So I talk to the only person I know who will listen without condemnation: Jesus. It might sound odd to some, but I have learned that He is always available and actually wants to hear from us. So I pray often for wisdom and discernment as well as compassion and forgiveness. I feel quite low many days and nights due to my transgressions and need that connection with Him to steady my unevenness, be the anchor for my wayward actions.

And I have to report, it works most times. I come back to the dorm after program at lunchtime or after the afternoon session ready to bawl my eyes out and have to put my head in my pillow and just pray away all the drama I have caused. It still is not safe, even in the program, to show weakness, as word travels quickly and there are always lions ready to pounce. When I thought of that it reminds me of the verse in the Bible, John 10 v10 “The thief (meaning Satan) cometh not, but to steal, kill and destroy.” And yes, they are often dressed in sheep’s clothing in here, feigning help and comfort only to try and extort something – an advantage, procure a debt, or even something as base as food, all with the assurance of keeping your trouble or concern quiet. Right. Even a newbie like me learned that lie. After a good conversation with Him, or even quietly listening for His help, I feel better, more relaxed and able to go on better.

As my friend from Fishkill had taught me – and is a common phrase in here – pressure bursts pipes, meaning you have to take care of things or they will explode, often in your face, and cause more havoc. So I know I have to deal with these issues as they come up, no matter how painful they are. I attempt to contact my wife when I can, using one of the two wall pay phones out in the day room to reach her. But connecting with her is not always easy, nor is getting a free phone. Then, of course, your conversations are very public and anyone can hear, or at least watch your demeanor. Unlike the reception dorm when I first arrived here, we have no phone booths like they had. I enjoyed that privacy, even if it was only apparent privacy.

In the evenings, when not at Bible study, I venture to the gym for basketball or weight work, both taking my mind off the troubles of the day at least for the time working out. Maybe that’s why the time seems to just fly by when there. And of course there is game night which really serves to change my mood.

The team I had joined was actually made up of Muslims. Little did I know this when I agreed back that night soon after my arrival, though I was so anxious to play I didn’t care. Now I see guys I have played with in open rec and even some from the program on teams I play against. Fortunately we are doing well in the league, so I get lost in the game and not my troubles for the forty minutes we play. Everyone seems to treat me well enough, though one or two seem bent on doing their own thing, something that gets us in trouble in the game and something our ‘coach’ dislikes. He was the one who recruited me, so he’s cool with my Christianity, but I think those one or two others are not, hence their reticence to pass to me., though I did notice last game when crunch time came, I saw more of the rock.

So I guess it really takes a conscious effort to stay close to God, my true source of power. As the bumper sticker says, “You’ve tried everything else, try God.” I can attest the benefits of doing so are immeasurable and help me through this Jumanji world.

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